Interview with: Steve Jevons, executive headteacher of HFCMAT
The role of an executive headteacher is not officially defined in education law but essentially it describes any headteacher role that directly leads two or more schools in a multi academy trust or other partnership arrangement.
With more and more schools joining multi academy trusts, the executive headteacher role is becoming increasingly common. In this issue Educate speaks to Steve Jevons, an executive headteacher at Holy Family Catholic Multi Academy Trust, to find out more about his position and how it benefits the schools within the trust.
Like many teachers, Steve (39) was inspired to enter the profession after forming great relationships with his own teachers during his school years.
He said: “I had some fantastic teachers when I was at school who instilled belief in me and helped me on my journey. Some of them told me I’d make a great teacher one day. This planted a seed and like my teachers, I wanted to make a difference and help others. Following getting some experience in helping younger children with reading and leading sports clubs, I knew teaching was the path for me.”
Steve went on to study BA (Hons) primary education with qualified teacher status at Liverpool John Moores University. After graduating, he joined St Bernard’s RC Primary School in Ellesmere Port in 2005.
He explained: “This was an exciting time for the school as I was one of three newly qualified teachers embarking on their teaching careers. I’d heard the saying in teaching that I’d never forget my first class but the truth is I remember them all across the years and it’s wonderful to hear how so many of them are now enjoying much success in their lives.”
Over the years, Steve progressed to deputy head and then head of school when St Bernard’s successfully became a National Teaching School.
He added: “This changed my strategic work significantly as I was co-directing Ignite Teaching School Alliance – a partnership of over thirty schools. As well as the day-to-day leadership of St Bernard’s, I was also strategically leading an Initial Teacher Training programme and sourcing CPD and networks for alliance schools.
“This was a huge learning curve for me but I loved the challenge. This experience showed me the power of collaboration and learning from each other. Working in partnership with excellent leaders enabled the alliance to enjoy much success.”
He added: “In my deputy head and head of school roles, I also had the opportunity to support many schools, modelling teaching and working with leaders on curriculum development and systems for continuous school improvement. Having an impact on staff and children beyond my own school was really rewarding and something I have a huge passion for.”
Following a leadership restructure across the existing three primary schools within the trust – St Bernard’s RC Primary School, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Oxton and Our Lady of Pity Catholic Primary School in Greasby, the executive headteacher position became available.
Steve said: “Given the impact I’d had in school-to-school support and co-directing a teaching school alliance, whilst maintaining high standards at St Bernard’s, I was excited by the position and believed I could bring a lot to the role. I’m now in my second year of executive leadership, and each day’s experiences enable me to grow as a leader.”
But what does Steve’s role entail and how does it work alongside the heads at the primary schools?
He said: “I provide strategic leadership and management which enables the primaries to give every pupil highquality education.
“We have a shared vision and a key aspect of my role is to build effective teams to create a shared learning culture and positive environment. I work really closely with the school leadership teams to ensure evaluation is robust and improvement initiatives have clear implementation plans.
He continued: “To date, a lot of my focus has been building leadership capacity across the schools, working with middle and subject leaders to review and refine the intent, implementation and impact of their curriculums. With many staff new to leadership positions, I’ve been modelling how to build and utilise systems for continuous improvement, ensuring that we are working in the most efficient and effective way.”
In 2022, the government revealed its ambitious vision for all schools to become part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) by 2030. This will soon mean executive headteacher roles could become crucial in order to oversee the influx of schools joining MATs.
Steve said: “I firmly believe that schools are stronger together and an important part of my role is to connect people so that learning is shared and workload reduced.
“Working across a number of schools gives a strong oversight of strengths and opportunities for collaboration, whilst ensuring that the overarching vision, mission and values of the trust and individual schools are lived. As a Catholic trust, providing another layer of Catholic leadership further supports the Catholic life and leadership of the individual schools.”
For busy senior leadership teams with ever increasing responsibilities, an executive headteacher can provide much needed support and expertise.
Steve commented: “Whether an experienced headteacher or head of school new to the role, having another arm of support and constructive challenge can work really effectively when everyone works towards the shared vision and values of the organisation.
“The executive leadership role allows for further quality assurance and strategic direction.”
For headteachers looking for their next challenge, an executive headship role could be the next step for them. Looking back over his last two years in post, Steve offered some helpful advice.
He said: “For those considering executive leadership, be prepared to step away from the day-to-day operational running of the schools and focus more on the strategy which will enable you to build teams to deliver your shared vision. At first, I found this really challenging as I was so used to knowing absolutely everything about every child and family. Look for efficiencies and build systems to enable your organisation to be as lean as possible. Working across schools allows you to see where time can be saved and workload shared.
“I’ve always asked for help when I’ve needed it, so I believe it’s important to connect with lots of people in similar roles.
The networking through the NPQEL (National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership) with Inspire Learning Teaching School Hub has supported me with this.”
With more primary and secondary schools set to join multi academy trusts over the next seven years, what is Steve’s vision for Holy Family Catholic Multi Academy Trust?
He concluded: “The team at Holy Family Catholic Multi Academy Trust are excited to see the trust grow. More schools will bring more expertise and increase opportunities for reciprocal learning, all of which will make our offer to all children and staff across the trust even stronger.
“Growing leaders for the future is key to sustainable high standards and providing opportunities for staff at all levels to develop their leadership skills is essential.”